Estonia’s Greatest Threat – Russia or Climate Change?

The Republic of Estonia regained independence from the United Socialist Soviet Republic (USSR) in 1991. Estonia is bordered by Russia to the east, Latvia to the south, the Baltic Sea to the west, and the Gulf of Finland to the north. The current population of the Republic of Estonia is approximately 1.30 million people.

In 2016, Estonia used fossil fuels (85%) and renewable energy (15%) to generate electricity in the country. Shale oil is the primary source of fossil fuel and biomass is the primary source of renewable energy in the country.

As a member of the European Union (EU), Estonia must comply with the “2030 Framework for Climate and Energy.” The framework mandates all countries cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 from 1990 levels and use renewable energy to generate 27% of the country’s electrical power.

Estonia is aggressively pursuing a wide range of renewable energy projects including offshore floating projects. However, the country is always wary of its former occupier, Russia. The Estonian government has recently announced it will not start the permitting process for one offshore wind farm due to national security concerns.

The Estonian government has refused to commence the offshore permitting process for a 600 MW offshore wind farm in the Baltic Sea. An Estonian government meeting on April 4, 2019 stated, “the reason for the refusal is the suspicion that the applicant may endanger public order, social security and national security when receiving a building permit”. The applicant to develop the offshore wind farm is Saare Wind Energy. Tuuliki Kasonen, general manager of the Estonian Wind Power Association, stated that Estonia’s Internal Security Service believed the owners of Saare Wind Energy have “connections to Russian money”.

Estonia is faced with a major conundrum. The country has signed the Paris Climate Accord, committing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As a member of the EU, Estonia must dramatically increase the use of renewable energy. As a former member of the USSR, Estonia is well aware of Russia’s practices of destabilizing governments. Russia’s true character is clearly seen in their invasion of the Ukraine, poisoning of dissidents and attempts to sway elections in the United States and Europe.

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